Dun Troddan stands a little up the northern slope of the side of Gleann Beag, about two miles along a minor single track road which leaves the coast south of Glenelg. It is the second of the "Glenelg Brochs", twinned with Dun Telve, a third of a mile to its west.
Dun Troddan is a broch, one of around five hundred to be found across mainly the north and west of Scotland. Brochs were built in the last centuries BC and the first centuries AD and were circular in plan, rising to a height of 13 metres or more: this is the height of the best preserved example, Mousa Broch in the Shetland Islands.
Opinions differ as to their purpose. Some experts view them as primarily defensive structures, while others believe they were symbols of prestige and power, intended to demonstrate the wealth of the local chieftain and his ability to harness the manpower and resources necessary to build such a highly visible structure. The truth is that these structures were probably multi-purpose, designed for day to day habitation as well, when necessary, as defence. (Continues below image...)
It is unclear why Dun Troddan and Dun Telve were built so closely together, but given the huge amount of effort needed to build such a structure, it seems very likely they were built by groups, perhaps different parts of a large family, working in cooperation with one another. If the brochs had been built by enemies, then whoever built the first to be finished could readily have prevented construction of the second.
There's a layby large enough to take a few cars at the foot of the short climb up to the broch itself. The path takes you up to the south-western side of the structure, where you find the entrance. Dun Troddan is some 17.5m in diameter, and stands to a maximum height of 7m. The walls are 4.5m thick at the base, tapering as they climb. Although Dun Troddan stands less high than its neighbour, in some ways it is better preserved, with more of the outer wall surviving.
As you enter the broch you encounter a side chamber, now roofless, within the thickness of the wall, perhaps intended to defend the only means of access. The interior of Dun Troddan is almost perfectly circular, with a diameter of 8.5m. Traces have been found of postholes in the floor, as well as a hearth and an inbuilt, though now broken, quernstone. Stairs within the wall give access to first floor level. Originally they would have gone to the top of the structure.
It is said that Dun Troddan was largely complete when visited in 1720, at which point it measured over 12m in height. It is believed that it was reduced in height and robbed of stone in 1722 when Bernera Barracks was built in Glenelg. It seems odd that anyone should have bothered partly demolishing Dun Troddan when a large part of the more conveniently located Dun Telve was still standing, but the sources do seem consistent about the reason for the diminution of both of the brochs.
The Glenelg brochs were becoming tourist attractions by the end of the 1700s, at which time many antiquarians believed they had been built by Picts or Danes. They passed into state care in 1855 and today they are cared for by Historic Environment Scotland.